As my tenure at Barnard comes to a close, I want to take a moment to speak to an issue of great importance, both for the College and for me personally. In January 2016, I formed the Presidential Task Force on Diversity & Inclusion, and for the past year this dedicated group of students, faculty, administrators, and trustees has undertaken a complex and deliberate process of discussion, consultation, and analysis with the goal of making Barnard a more representative, inclusive, and equitable place. The resulting recommendations were shared with the Board of Trustees today, and the trustees have expressed their firm support for the goals and ambitions laid out by the Task Force. Over the coming years, they look forward to working with all members of the Barnard community to prioritize these recommendations and bring them into being.
To be sure, the goals of diversity and inclusion are complex and ever-changing, and progress towards them will inevitably evolve over a period of years. As I depart the College, though, I wanted to briefly summarize what measures we have already put in place; what additional steps will be taken over the next few months; and what is likely to become part of the agenda for Barnard’s next president.
Over the past several years, and with attention to previous campus discussions around diversity, the College has established a number of student- and faculty-facing initiatives. Specifically:
- The office of Academic Success and Enrichment Programs (ASEP) has created a Fund for First-Generation Low-Income Students. Administered by Dean Michell Tollinchi-Michel, the fund assists students in meeting a range of academic and financial needs, including access to books and library loans, funds for conference participations, and enhanced tutoring services.
- With funds from both the current capital campaign—The Bold Standard—and earlier donations, Barnard has established 485 scholarships for students with financial need. Sixty-five (13%) of these funds are specifically designated to support under-represented, first-generation, disabled, and undocumented students. In total, these 65 scholarship funds—64 of which are endowed— provided nearly $957,000 in financial aid grants to 71 students in the 2016-2017 academic year.
- In fall of 2016, we launched The Presidential Fund for Diversity and Inclusion, designed to encourage and fund student-led initiatives that increase diversity and inclusion on campus. Thus far, some of these initiatives have included a Thanksgiving potluck devoted to the notion of “home,” a Bengali conversation with invited speakers, and an art project devoted to making campus spaces more visually inclusive.
- With funds from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation's Mid-Career Presidential Grant to Barnard, we are planning a multi-part series on the topic of "inclusive pedagogy." Launching in the fall of 2017 with a major keynote speaker event, the series will continue in the spring and fall of 2018 with faculty lectures on relevant research; seminars on best practices offered in conjunction with outside experts including members of Columbia's Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL); and panel discussions with Barnard faculty on their experiences implementing inclusive pedagogy practices. All Barnard faculty will be strongly encouraged to attend the full series of events.
- Meanwhile, we continue our support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program and for our own undocumented students. The College will make every effort to offer administrative assistance to students at risk, and to assure that they remain an integral part of our community.
- Finally, we recently updated our website to include an expanded Diversity & Inclusion section that covers committees, initiatives, resources, and more.
Over the next few months, and in direct response to the Task Force’s recommendations, Interim President Rob Goldberg will be working with other members of our community to put further important and immediate steps in place.
- A campus-wide Diversity Council will be created by the end of this semester to support and promote ongoing diversity initiatives, events, and lectures, including a book or film series on diversity-related topics and facilitated town hall meetings.
- A Staff Council will be created to provide a formal means of communication between all levels of staff and the senior administration, enhancing cohesion across campus and serving as a channel for staff-related issues such as campus climate, professional development, and work-life balance.
- Our campus services office will set parameters and goals for selecting Minority and Women Based Enterprises (“MWBE”) in its hiring of contractors and independent consultants.
- The Campus Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees will create a standing agenda item going forward that focuses on issues of campus diversity and inclusion. A scheduled annual report on diversity will be included.
- In the fall of 2017, Barnard will offer a newly-funded scholarship called the Ann and Andrew Tisch Scholarship for Refugee Women. Generously supported by a gift from the Ann and Andrew Tisch family, the proceeds from this scholarship will allow the College to provide support to students whose education has been interrupted as a result of war, persecution, conflict, natural disaster, or crisis. The Fund will cover the full financial needs of the selected recipients, including tuition, room, board, books, travel, and stipends for co-curricular activities.
Finally, the Task Force has also made several important recommendations that will fall largely to the next administration to consider and implement. Specifically, they have advocated for, and I support:
- Creating a new administrative position for a chief diversity officer, who would be responsible for overseeing and coordinating diversity and inclusion efforts across the College;
- Adding up to 10 additional faculty of color to our tenured and tenure-track ranks;
- And creating and funding a Center for Academic Success and Excellence that would provide additional support for our diverse student body by augmenting and expanding our existing roster of programs and services.
All of these longer term and structural recommendations have been thoughtfully prepared, and I know that Provost Linda Bell, Dean of the College Avis Hinkson, and Rob Goldberg in his role as interim president are enthusiastic about thinking them through over the next few months, and then working with the new president going forward. Taken together, these initiatives will go a long way in advancing the College as a learning community and an engine of opportunity for students, faculty, and staff from all backgrounds.
For the past nine years, it has been an honor to witness Barnard’s steadfast commitment to creating and maintaining an atmosphere that respects each and every member of the community. This value has been central to Barnard's mission from the start and I have every confidence that it will continue to define the College. I know that Interim President Goldberg will be calling on all of you to help with this effort. And I have no doubt that Barnard’s future leadership will strive to maintain and develop the College’s climate of diversity, inclusion, equity, and understanding.